Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu bashed the Israel Police Monday for confiscating the cellphones of his advisers as part of a probe into suspicions that they had harassed a state's witness who provided testimony in one of the criminal cases against the premier.
Taking to Twitter to denounce the move, Netanyahu wrote that it was "a terror attack on Israeli democracy and the right to privacy that every citizen should enjoy."
The prime minister accused the police of trying to "threaten my immediate environment, and thereby stopping me from reacting to the onslaught of criminal leaks against me that has been going on incessantly. Why isn't this being investigated?", he added.
Netanyahu was likely alluding to several leaks of audio recordings from the investigations into the corruption cases he is embroiled in.
In the most recent recording released to the media, which was aired by Channel 13 News' Raviv Drucker over the weekend, the premier can be heard threatening Yedioth Ahronoth publisher Arnon Mozes. "If you take me down, I'll come after you with everything I've got... it will become my life's mission," Netanyahu says in the recorded conversation.
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This recording is central evidence in Case 2000, in which Netanyahu is suspected of fraud and breach of trust for striking an alleged deal with Mozes. According to the indictment, Mozes was to provide favorable coverage of the prime minister in exchange for legislation to damage its competitor, the free daily newspaper Israel Hayom.
The police seized the cellphones of the prime minister's advisers "due to clear investigative needs," the Justice Ministry said in a statement on Monday. "Due to the obvious sensitivity, it was established from the beginning that this will require a warrant from the court enabling a limited search, which is meant to help find information pertaining only to the incident that is being investigated."
The advisers, who have been questioned in recent days by the police's anti-corruption unit, include Netanyahu and Likud spokesman Jonathan Orich and the premier’s media adviser, Ofer Golan.
The investigation was opened following a complaint over the harassment of Shlomo Filber, a state's witness in Case 4000, in which Netanyahu is suspected of bribery, fraud and breach of trust for taking steps that benefited Bezeq owner Shaul Elovitch in return for favorable coverage on Bezeq’s Walla news site.
According to the complaint, during one of this year's two election campaigns, people parked in a vehicle outside Filber’s home called him out in an intimidating fashion.
“Momo, be a man. Come out, tell the truth,” they reportedly said, using a loudspeaker. “Momo Filber, what did they do to you to make you lie against the prime minister? What did they promise you?” and “Momo, the left is using you to bring down Likud.”
A lawyer by profession, 56-year-old Filber was a director general of the Communications Ministry and a confidant of Benjamin Netanyahu for many years.
He was arrested last year during the investigation in Case 4000, and later turned state’s evidence. He told the police his actions were based on Netanyahu’s orders, and that Netanyahu urged him to fire the ministry's deputy director general.